Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas, 850,000+ households have applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for temporary support, according to Texas Monthly. The agency reports that just 321,244 applications have been approved as of press time.
In an October 11 letter to Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) argues that the widespread displacement and loss means that thousands of Texans no longer have transportation or the state-required identification they need to head to the polls. LDF is currently challenging the state’s voter ID law in federal court.
From a statement about the letter:
The Texas code already recognizes that a natural disaster is an extenuating circumstance necessitating accommodations.
The racially disparate impact of the photo ID law has only been exacerbated since the storm as Black and Latino Texans are more likely to have lost their IDs in its wake. As a result, it will be difficult for many voters to reach their assigned polling sites on Election Day and/or register to vote by the October 10, 2017 deadline.
The letter asks Pablos to take three actions, and argues that if he doesn’t, he will disenfranchise eligible voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section Two of the Voting Rights Act:
In sum, we ask that you (1) inform election officials and voters that the natural disaster provision extends through December 4, encompassing the November 7 election and any other elections within that time period, (2) provide Texans from affected areas more time to register and to update their registrations, and (3) allow voters to vote in locations other than their assigned voting locations.
The state’s voting website currently informs voters who evacuated that they can either vote in their home county, give up their registration and register in the new county (which had to be done by October 10), apply for a ballot by mail by October 27, or apply for a limited ballot, which lets them vote in their new county, but only for offices and policies that overlap with their previous county. People who are still living in shelters are advised to “allow some time for the situation to become more stable.” The election—which includes local and state positions, as well as an amendment to the state constitution—is on November 7.
Texas residents can check their registration status here.